Despite its nearly 40 million residents, some regions of California remain happily untouched. Indeed, any travel guide will tout the state’s wide-open wilderness areas as among the best things to see. Dotted with broad meadows, thundering waterfalls, and giant sequoia trees, Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a magnet for hikers and climbers. Further south in the Sierra range, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks attract nature enthusiasts with white-water rivers, densely forested hiking trails, and the towering General Sherman—one of the largest living trees on Earth.
For all of its natural wonders, California is perhaps best known for its two iconic world capitals. The General Sherman, after all, wouldn’t even reach the halfway point of San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid, and it would be lost among the forest of sleek structures that compose L.A.’s iconic skyline. The City by the Bay has earned its reputation as a global arts capital, thanks to a profusion of downtown galleries and world-class museums such as the SFMOMA and the De Young. While visiting the latter in Golden Gate Park, leave time for a stroll through the picturesque Japanese Tea Garden.
Southern California is all about entertainment—from Hollywood’s star-studded Walk of Fame to the themed rides and attractions at parks such as Disneyland and Universal Studios. A visit to Universal even comes with a behind-the-scenes tour that features back-lot views of famous movie sets. Visitors to the theme park can also spend time at CityWalk free of charge, where they can engage in some of L.A.’s finest shopping, dining and club-hopping.